Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bonanno Turncoat Sal Vitale Also Took Down The Montreal Mafia

The New York mobster who brought down Vito Rizzuto, Canada's most powerful Mafia boss, while becoming one of the "most significant government co-operators in modern history," was extensively interviewed by Canadian police as part of his plea arrangement, court documents show.
Salvatore "Good-Looking Sal" Vitale, 63, who admitted his role in 11 gangland murders -- including a Canadian -- was released from prison after serving less than eight years, during which he gave extensive and riveting testimony in the United States against a long list of former colleagues in four of the notorious five Mafia families of New York.
He otherwise would have been in prison for life.
His testimony brought prison terms against 51 mobsters, including his former boss, Joseph Massino, and Rizzuto, the boss of the Montreal Mafia when arrested in 2004.
Revealedincourtdocuments filed in his case, unsealed last month, is his co-operation with Canadian police and prosecutors who were working on Project Colisee, the massive 2006 assault on the Montreal Mafia.
"During the course of his co-operation, Vitale also met with investigators from Canada and his information was made available to various prosecutors," the U.S. government wrote in a memorandum to the judge recommending Vitale's sentence be reduced.
Project Colisee led to the arrests of Nicolo Rizzuto, Vito's father; Paolo Renda, Vito's brother-in-law who has since been released and apparently kidnapped; and a wide swath of the criminal organization's leadership and foot soldiers.
"As part of that prosecution, Vitale met with Canadian law enforcement authorities, and he provided specific information about the Bonanno family's activities in Canada," the memo says. Defence lawyers for the six lead defendants in the Montreal case were told in July 2008 that a co-operating witness had provided information relevant to their activities, says the memo. Two months later they each pleaded guilty
and were sentenced to terms ranging from four to 15 years.
"Although the degree to which Vitale's information led to those pleas is impossible to assess, this much is undisputed: He met with Canadian authorities and provided information relevant to their prosecution."
The U.S. prosecutors refer to Vito Rizzuto as "the most powerful member of the Mafia in Canada" and "Canada's most notorious criminal."
Vitale was the underboss of the Bonanno Family, the second most powerful position, when arrested in 2003. He then admitted his crimes, including the 1999 murder of Gerlando "George From Canada" Sciascia, who was the Rizzutos' representative in New York, and became a stunning government informant, a so-called rat.
The government said Vitale was crucial to its many recent mob prosecutions.
"The [Bonanno Family] prosecution likely stands as the most significant prosecution in a single organized crime family -- and Salvatore Vitale was among the most crucial witnesses who provided information leading to the indictment and conviction of these defendants."
He testified at six trials gaining convictions in all of them.
His evidence was also crucial in the U.S. obtaining the extradition of Rizzuto for his role in three gangland murders in New York that took place in 1981. Vitale and Rizzuto were two of four gunmen who burst into a Brooklyn social club and killed three rebellious mob captains. The murders were colourfully recreated in the Hollywood movie Donnie Brasco, starring Al Pacino and Johnny Depp.
Rizzuto pleaded guilty in 2007 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Andre Cedilot, author of a just-released French-language book on the Rizzutos called Mafia Inc., said Vitale was in a position to provide explosive evidence about the relationship between Montreal mobsters and their New York colleagues but that chance has been lost.
"There was no need, in the end, for the testimony because everyone pleaded guilty," he said. "Now, we don't know much."
Had the Project Colisee charges gone to trial, Mr. Cedilot said Vitale's evidence would have helped prove gangsterism charges against the Montreal men by revealing the structure of the Mafia.
In his prior testimony in New York, Vitale said he came to Montreal on the orders of the Bonanno Family boss to offer Rizzuto the leadership of the Montreal cell of the Bonannos. Rizzuto refused it, saying it should go to his father, Nicolo.
Unlike in the United States, police in Canada have had little success in convincing Canadian mobsters to become government informants.
Brian Waller, Vitale's lawyer, said in a court filing that his client has been a model prisoner since his arrest, has completed an anger management program and become close to a prison priest. He regularly goes to Catholic confession at the prison chapel and assists in running services.
Vitale is expected to enter the witness protection program to be secretly reintegrated into society under a new identity.

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